From the 2012 exhibition Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, take a closer look at a unique piece of automata: David Roentgen’s Automaton of Queen Marie Antoinette, The Dulcimer Player (La Joueuse de Tympanon).

David Roentgen (1743–1807) took his royal patron by surprise when he delivered this beautiful automaton to King Louis XVI for his queen, Marie Antoinette, in 1784. The cabinetry for this piece is very much a neoclassical masterwork, and the mechanism behind it is truly extraordinary: the figure strikes the strings in perfect rhythm with two small metal hammers held in her hands, which move with great precision.

From the same exhibit at The Met: Extravagant furniture with secret panels, doors, and drawers.

There’s more automata on this site, including The Writer, automata by Pierre Jaquet-Droz and Mechanical singing bird box automata of the 1700s.

Plus: How does a music box work?

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